October 10, 2017

P1070246

I’ve loaded up on new music recently and one I’ve really been enjoying is Newton Faulkner’s latest album, Hit The Ground Running. His albums can be a bit hit and miss, but this one is a real winner. The first couple of tracks are upbeat and fun, and then it dips into some almost funk and blues songs that really work for me. This is one of the upbeat ones, entitled: Smoked Ice Cream.

++++

Current chain of writing days: 2

++++

For the past two weeks the Lady Holly have been making our way across Malaysian Borneo. It is a hot and humid place thanks to it’s proximity to the equator, full of jungle, quick and heavy tropical rain, noodles, and unfortunately quite a lot of palm plantations.

Borneo, for any who don’t know, is a large island surrounded on four sides by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the lower half of Vietnam — and is made up of three countries; Malaysia Borneo, Indonesian Borneo, and the very small nation of Brunei.

My first introduction to Borneo came when during a flight to Europe last year we stopped over in Brunei and I had no idea where we were. Some quick research dispelled my ignorance, I learnt some basic facts about Borneo (those listed above), and then forgot all about it as we were already on one adventure and weren’t needing to plan our next one just yet.

That was until months later, when attending a friends book launch, the Lady Holly picked up a lonely planet on Borneo. She flicked through, showing me one amazing photo after another, and by the time she had made it to the back cover we were in agreeance that, yeah, we were going to go there.

Holly did a bunch of research and put together an itinerary of one amazing activity after another. I did nothing, maybe I cooked, either way, she rocks and planned us a killer trip. We booked it all in and then had to trudge through a half year wait until we could finally get on that plane and dive into the photos that had won us over all those months ago.

Now, I could go through out whole trip and tell you each incredible thing we did one after another, but I have the feeling that that would be more fun for me than for you, so, in short: We visited humid rainforests dripping with wildlife, peeled leeches from our ankles while trying not to freak out, floated down kinabatangan river spotting monkeys and birds, drank beer while watching the jungle soak itself with rain, scuba dived and snorkeled through island reefs brimming with fish and sea turtles, and ate, and bused, and sweated, and watched movies, and waited in airports, and read books, and discovered something new every day. It was magic.

Because that’s what travelling does, it exposes you to the new, and when that happens you can’t help but learn things.

So, I thought I’d finish by jotting down the… 

Things I Learned in Borneo:

  1. I’m fairly terrible at keeping up my writing while on holiday. I started out strong, but then got quite sick, then had activity filled days, and in the end I decided to just lean into it. I don’t think it’s the worse thing. While I like having a big number for my consecutive days of writing, some time off can be beneficial, and has left me extra keen to jump back in.
  2. Something will always go wrong. This is my mantra for any time I travel. If you’re expecting to travel and have everything go perfectly then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s too many factors involved, too many ways something can and will go wrong. By acknowledging this fact it means that when it does you can simply say, ‘I knew this would happen,’ and get on with it, rather than get disappointed. Works for life in general too, but that’s another blog. For this trip, I got sick. I actually had gastro the day before we left, then contracted a flu two days in. It was a bad one, I can’t remember the last time I felt so rotten. I could barely get out of bed, was sweating and delusional, and I couldn’t even hold onto a thought during the worst of it. When it was clear I wasn’t getting better, I took some antibiotics and quickly started improving. It’s the first time to my knowledge that I’ve taken antibiotics and wow, they’re awesome. I got out of bed and back on track. Not to say it wasn’t upsetting but in the long run it was a small setback to a great trip.
  3. Fortune may favour the bold but it also favours the prepared. E.g. the antibiotics I took we had on hand because we’d seen a travel doctor before going. While things will go wrong, being prepared minimises the effect. 
  4. Noodles are literally good for any meal. Yes, even breakfast.
  5. Plan a holiday around seeing wildlife and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time. That’s a more personal one. Nature and wildlife may not be for everyone, but for me it meant I always had something beautiful and interesting to look at and photograph, as well as providing us with that recharge that only nature can provide and that I miss by living in a city. It’s also cost effective.
  6. No matter how hard I try I am destined to always break a pair of sunglasses while on holiday. Always. Sometimes multiple times.
  7. I should read more. While I didn’t write as much as I thought I would I did read a bunch. How much? Five and a half novels in two weeks, my friends. It was bliss. By allowing myself permission to disconnect from my phone, as well as having plenty of down time, it meant I could commit to reading as much as I usually want to, and was so much more beneficial than scrolling through apps on my phone like I usually would. One of the books was Stephen King’s On Writing, in which he says aspiring writers need to do two things; write a lot and read a lot. He’s not wrong, and I’m hoping to bring back this renewed passion into my usual routine.
  8. My beard is quite good at protecting my face from sunburn; my thinning hairline, not so much. You can read that one any way you like, but I choose to see it as; things always even out.
  9. You should go visit Borneo. Honestly, there was so much to see and do, the people were friendly and relaxed, never pushy, and getting around wasn’t a problem. It’s a wonderful part of the world and one we’re hoping to get back to one day.
  10. Holly’s the best. You should get yourself a Holly.

++++

It’s good to be back.

Talk soon

Damian

Advertisements

The Fox’s Beard

The Fox's Beard Audio Cover

I wrote this short story a little while ago and it’s up there as one of my favourites. It’s a fairly standard fable, which is what I like about it, as well as having an unlikeable protagonist, which, while can be challenging to get an audience behind, is quite fun to write. It’s message is pretty simple, namely the tried and true warning; ‘be careful what you wish for’, which is always fun.

I’ve wanted to do an audio version for a while because I like reading stories aloud, and I think this one, with its humour and narration, really lends itself to that format. Thanks to Movie Maintence Presents, this now exists.

You can listen to the audio here, or find MOBI, EPUB, and PDF versions to download below, for those of you who’d prefer to read the story yourself rather than hear my voice. Simply click the appropriate image, then ‘download’ in the new window that opens.

I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening/reading

FB-EPUB       FB-MOBI      FB-PDF

Talk soon

Damian

September 20, 2018

P1060609

Inside Out by Avalanche city is the blog song this week. Avalanche City is a singer songwriter from New Zealand, and creates folk pop treats of harmonious delight. Or, at least, I think he does. Enjoy.

++++

Current chain of writing days: 52

++++

I’ve been writing my weekend flash fiction stories for four weeks now, and they’re definitely scratching the itch I’d wanted them to. Not only do they ensure that I keep up with writing over the weekend, but they’re coming together better than I had hoped. In fact, I’m liking them a little too much, and have to be careful that they don’t leak into my weekday writing, which I use to chip away at whatever major project I’m currently working on.

In order to stop this from happening I have a strict rule that flash fiction writing can only take place over the weekend. As soon as Monday shows it’s round and sunny face it’s done, fingers down. No more editing, no more reworking, just throw whatever I have at that point on to the website. Because of this rule, and because I am a strict task master, one who refuses to bend to my own internal begging, I was concerned that the weekend writing might be somewhat sub par. Mostly, they haven’t been. In fact the latest one, Once Hidden, Three Times Found, is a piece of writing I’m really happy with, and up there as one of my favourites. The most exciting part about that story though was that I had no idea where it was going as I was writing it.

Usually, I plot out my story at least a little, even if it’s simply writing down whatever initially spawned the idea and adding a few stray thoughts about where it might go. But, because of my whip cracking rules, I didn’t have time for that, I didn’t even really have an initial burst of inspiration. What I did have was a writing prompt, given by another writing advice blog, where I was given a title and a first line, and then I just wrote from there, the story seemingly coming from nowhere.

It was kind of amazing. Stephen King has talked about how he often has no idea where his stories are going, but rather describes it as though he’s an archaeologist who’s simply exposing a story that’s already there. That’s what this one felt like.

I wrote the first half over two plane trips last weekend, travelling in between Melbourne and Adelaide, a short fifty minute flight, meaning my usual truncated time was even shorter still. I didn’t have time to overthink it, I just wrote one scene, briefly considered what could happen next, and then immediately wrote it; still with no plan about where the story was leading.

I then wrote the second half in the weekend just past. I knew I had hit my midpoint at the end of last weekend and still had no idea about how the second half would conclude, but all week I was excited to find out, because, weirdly, I felt like as much reader as writer, confident the story did have an ending, I would just have to wait to see what it was. Saturday rolled around but I had to finish editing an audio book version of one of my short stories (details of which to be revealed in a future blog), and so I had one day to find the story’s second half.

I began writing and sure enough, there it was, waiting for me, coming out one line at a time. By the time I was done I felt elated and wild. The ending came together, plucked from the corners of my mind and woven together in a way that felt natural and right.

Here’s the thing though, I’m not a story archaeologist. The story wasn’t waiting to be discovered. It wasn’t hanging in space, complete and perfect, simply needing a vessel to reveal itself. That’s not how it works. What actually happened was all the practice and work and study from the last few years came together in a way that meant I didn’t have to think about the story elements as I wrote them. Which, to me, is even more amazing. It means all this works.

When I started my screenwriting degree and was learning about all the various writing tools and structure guidelines and character design and dialogue rules and etc. etc. etc. it seemed like a lot to take in, a lot of pieces to crowd your head as you wrote, a lot of filters to look at your writing through. Basically, it seemed impossible. My lectures told me though, that given enough time all that knowledge would become second nature, that if used it enough it would become innate and feature in my writing without me having to think about it. I’m starting to see that they were right.

Basically, writing is like any other skill, you need to practice it. You need to do it over and over until you’re sick of doing it, and then find some way to keep doing it anyway. It’ll always take work, but the more you work the better you get, and that’s what I’m most excited about; getting better.

Talk soon

Damian

Once Hidden, Three Times Found (Part 2)

614-05955594

The first part of this story can be found here.

+

Steam rose from the cup of coffee in front of me. It’s sharp smell burned my nostrils, even though they weren’t really my nostrils. I moved my head up. Or, at least, I watched it move up from somewhere behind the scenes. I wasn’t presently in control of my body, because it wasn’t really my body, just a memory of it. I could still feel everything it felt, however, as though it were really happening, I just had no control over any of it.

People moved past the window of the cafe as I, the past me, smiled at Alona, who sat across from us. I could tell the smile was bitter and sweet, and as I felt that I also remembered it, the day being revealed to me one second at a time.

‘Is there anything we can do?’ I asked.

‘To stop me dying? No. The foretelling was quite clear. It will happen today. Once told there’s nothing that can stop it, you know that. Besides, Ressenti wants me dead, even without the foretelling I wouldn’t like my chances.’

I felt the past me stifle a sob. My hand touched hers. Present me felt it and I wanted to weep. ‘How long?’

‘Two hours. Ressenti will burst into our house, where I’ll be standing, waiting for him. He’ll give some ridiculous monologue, you know how he is, then he’ll get one of his mage’s to stop my heart. They’ll bury me this afternoon, at the cemetery, gravestone and all, but you won’t be there.’

Tears dripped from past me’s eyes, as present me wondered how this day’s liquid could have possibly been amber. Surely, it should have been the deepest of blacks. But, it wasn’t, so…

‘What? Of course I’ll be there. Why won’t I be there?’ I heard myself say.

‘Because I have a plan,’ Alona said with a small smile.

‘You…do?’ I asked, wanting to return the smile but not yet sure what it meant. ‘What does that mean? You won’t die?’

‘No, I will. Or, at least, my body will, I just won’t be in it.’

+

I inhaled deeply as the rest of the day’s memory settled over my mind, then looked from Alona’s empty body to Meesha, who was watching me intently. I could feel a wellspring of happiness inside of me ready to burst.

‘You find your day?’ She asked.

Ripples of joy passed through my chest and out my mouth as the well burst in a chorus of happy laughter.

‘I found a lot more than that, Meesha. A lot more!’

I looked down at Alona’s cold face, ‘You clever, beautiful, wonderful, person.’ I reached my hands under her armpits and pulled her upwards.

‘Why are you taking that dead girl?’ Meesha asked, head tilted in question, less concerned with the grave robbing than confused by it.

‘Because she’s not dead, Meesha.’ I said, still unable to keep the grin from my face. ‘Just…temporarily not alive.’

Meesha’s head tilted further as she tried to understand my words.

‘Could you help me? Grab her feet.’

Meesha shrugged, nodded, then pocketed her vial once more and stood.

‘Where we take her?’

‘My home. It’s only around the corner from here.’

+

We dropped Alona’s body onto the couch with a heavy thud.

‘Sorry, Love.’ I said to the corpse.

Meesha leaned towards Alona’s face. ‘She definitely look dead.’

‘Not for long, dear Meesha. Not for long.’

‘You too cryptic,’ she said, squinting her purple eyes at me. ‘It annoying.’

I laughed, I couldn’t seem to stop laughing, and answered her. ‘Fair enough. I suppose I can give you the whole story.’ I kept talking as I moved to the kitchen where I opened a draw and took out a screwdriver. ‘You see, Alona and I, we are…were, I suppose, ferrymen. Go betweens for the natural world, and the mystic.’

I moved back into the lounge and pushed the coffee table to the wall.

‘If someone from your world wanted a job done in the natural, or vice versa, you’d hire us.’ I rolled up the rug from the floor and threw it to the side, revealing the floorboards underneath.

‘What jobs?’ Meesha asked.

‘Well, anything really. Delivering messages, selling mystic products to naturals, or natural products to mystics, smuggling folk across borders, and other, less, legal, jobs.’

‘You were criminals.’

I started unscrewing one of the floorboards. ‘Of a sort, I suppose, but very small time. However we did occasional do jobs for some of the big timers. You ever hear of Ressenti?’

‘The crustacean? Of course. He very bad. No prairie ever deal with him’

‘Yeah, well, you’re obviously a lot smarter than Alona and I. We took a job from him to smuggle a seer over to his lands. Except, it turned out the seer was less a guest and more of a prisoner. Ressenti was capturing seers from all over, then torturing them into doing foretellings for him. The idea was that they would tell him his opposition’s moves before they made them, allowing him to cut away their business or simply steal from them. All that goes against the seers core beliefs, however, so they weren’t giving up their knowledge easily. He’d killed three of them already. The one we were transporting would have been his fourth.’

I pulled away the first floor board and felt my excitement rise.

‘When Alona found all this out she decided to free the seer. The seer, being so grateful, then gifted her with a foretelling. Mostly, it wasn’t good news. Alona told me some of it, namely the time and place of her death, as well as a few other things.’

The second floorboard gave way. I quickly started on the third.

‘Of course Ressenti lost it, as we knew he would, and came looking for Alona. He killed her, just as the seer had predicted.’

I lifted the third floorboard but still couldn’t quite reach underneath.

‘They came for me next, not to kill me, I’d been with Ressenti when Alona had set the seer free, but they wanted to search my memory to see if Alona had revealed anything to me. She had, obviously, but by the time they caught up with me I’d already given away that information, in the form of days, like the one in your hand.’

Meesha looked at her vial, then back to me.

‘Only problem was that the knowledge that I’d given away the days was in one of the days, so I didn’t know where they were, or what had happened. Luckily, Alona had planned it all. She’d left me a note explaining that she was now dead and that I needed to find my hidden days. I was distraught, of course, but finding the days meant I had something to do. I’ve spent the last seventy two hours looking for them.’

The fourth floorboard came free. I fumbled in my pocket for my phone.

‘The one you helped me find was the last, it filled in all the missing pieces, including how to bring Alona back. All we need is…’

I turned the torch on my phone on, and shined it under the floorboards.

There was nothing there.

‘NO!’ I screamed, desperately scanning the small space for any sign of what Alona had left behind, or perhaps, some other clue.

It was empty, she was gone.

Then, a spot of colour caught my eye. A small smudge of gold and black pressed onto the wood. A fingerprint.

‘That fat bloated son of a bitch!’

+

‘Where is it?’ I yelled into his lumpy, bulging face.

‘Where is what?’ The bloated man asked with a pompous smile. ‘You’ll have to be much more specific if I’m to answer your questions?’

Meesha snorted angrily behind me.

‘What you stole. I know she came her. I know she asked for your advice. Asked if it was possible. You knew her plan and then you stole it before I could find it. Tell me where it is!’

‘I don’t believe I like your tone, or your accusations. I’ll ask you to leave my store, right now.’ The bloated man drew himself up, using his bulging form as both threat and intimidation.

I was far too tired and angry to give a shit.

I reached across the counter, grabbed two folds of fat from around his neck, and pulled his face closer to mine. ‘Where is it?’

At the back of my mind I could hear Alona’s advice, telling me to picture myself above the situation. But I didn’t want to calm down, I wanted to stay angry. Still, reflexively, I glanced upwards. The bloated man’s eyes also moved towards the ceiling, and then he swallowed nervously.

It was upstairs.

I shoved him backwards and then raced towards the stairway at the side of the room and started up them. The bloated man was right behind me, moving fast despite his bulk. I made it up to the second level, little more than an open attic, and there it was, sitting in the center of the room. Alona, in the form of a large glass keg. Amber liquid filled the keg, and dotted inside were thousands and thousands of baby squids. One for every day of her life.

‘NO!’ The bloated man roared behind me. ‘It is the jewel of my collection. The ultimate prize. You will not have it!’

I turned, ready to fight, only to have one of his chubby hands seize me by the throat and lift me into the air.

‘You will never appreciate the splendidness of this accomplishment.’ Spittle formed at his mouth and spat at me with every word. My face was growing hot, I could feel my eyes bulging, my lungs burning as air failed to enter them. ‘It is my life’s work!’ he growled.

‘But it’s her life,’ I wheezed out with my last bit of air.

Darkness was reaching in from the edge of my vision but I still managed to see as Meesha lept onto the bloated man’s shoulders. He cried out, and squeezed tighter on my throat. Meesha rode him one handed as he bucked, using the other to pull the vial from her clothes and rip the stopper out with her teeth. She pulled back on his head and poured the vials contents down the bloated man’s throat.

His eyes grew wide and he finally dropped me as he started to scream. Meesha leapt clear, and I gasped in breath after sacred breath. The bloated man dropped to his knees, his screaming only intensifying as his mind recalled the day Meesha has forced him to ingest. Torture, if I recalled. It seemed appropriate.

He was still screaming as we left his store, the glass keg in my arms.

+

Meesha held Alona’s mouth open as I carefully poured her life back into her. It took hours, with us having to pause in between each mouthful to allow the liquid and squids to slide down her throat, but, eventually the last drop fell into her, and as it did her eyes opened.

She blinked, then breathed, then smiled.

‘So, it worked then?’ She asked.

‘Yes,’ I said as tears of joy slid over my cheeks. I pulled Alona to me, and squeezed, breathing in her smell and warmth and life. I was so tired.

‘Umm, Meesha should leave now.’ Meesha said.

‘Oh, hello.’ Alona said to her.

‘Meesha, wait.’ I called, letting go of Alona to turn to the prairie girl. ‘Is there any chance you’d be interested in doing a job with us? I’ll pay you. I already owe you so much for everything you’ve done.’

‘Job?’ Meesha asked, tilting her head.

‘Yes, we, ahh, we’re planning to liberate-’

‘We’re going to rob Ressenti blind,’ Alona cut in. ‘And we could certainly use your help. I’m Alona by the way, but I guess you already know that?’

‘Meesha,’ Meesha said. ‘But how you rob Ressenti? He very powerful.’

‘He is,’ Alona agreed. ‘But a seer told me both where he keeps his wealth, and his method of hiding it. Or at least, how he will hide it. He’s going to move it in three days time and I would very much like to take it from him.

Meesha shrugged, then nodded. ‘Okay. Meesha help.’

I smiled and hugged Alona again.

Three days.

I might just sleep right through all of them.

+

Thanks for reading

Damian

Once Hidden, Three Times Found (Part 1)

3747C4D200000578-0-image-a-4_1471340759431Image credit: Dax Ward

Three days without sleep was the least of my worries. At least I could remember those three days. At least I had managed to find them. They had gotten me here. It was the fourth day, the hidden one, that was far more concerning.

I stared across the counter at the bloated man. He looked less like a person and more like a human shaped balloon, one that had been overfilled. He smiled his round smile, and his fat cheeks pushed into his eyes so that the two black beads almost disappeared completely. I could still see them gleaming at me though, from beyond the rolls.

‘How do I find my day?’ I asked.

‘Well,’ he drawled, in a voice like dripping fat. ‘Information like that I usually save for customers. Are you interested in making a purchase?’

I’m not a patient person on my best day, let alone when I can feel sleep deprivation edging in from the corners of my mind. My lip rose into a sneer. I forced myself to think of Alona’s advice. To picture myself floating above the situation, looking down at it. See how small it is. I took a breath and looked up for a beat. Even in my imagination the bloated man looked like a corpse that’d been washed up on the beach. Still, it helped.

‘What are you thinking?’ I asked.

‘Oh my. I have so many fine options. Quite a lot of business lately. Sense of the times, you know. So many people either willing to rid themselves of unwanted days or desperate enough to sell their treasured ones.’

‘Just give me whatever’s cheapest.’

‘Oh, no. That’s no way to make a decision of this import.’ He turned to the wall of vials behind him, each one containing a baby squid in amber liquid. His fat fingers, stained with swirls of black and gold, reached out and stroked one. ‘I have an absolutely splendid day passed on by an elderly oriental chap, his daughter’s graduation, no less, on special at the moment. No? Very well. Perhaps this one, given to me by a hippie from Queenstown, the day her family moved house when she was just twelve. Very cheap. Only three thousand’

‘Three thousand? Forget it. I only want to find my day.’

‘Then you must make a purchase. Rules is rules.’

I sighed, and pictured the scene from above once more. ‘You must have something cheaper than that.’

‘Only the miserables. Surely, a person of your standing doesn’t want one of those.’ The condescension in his tone told me exactly what he thought of my standing.

‘Yes. Fine. Whatever moves this along.’

‘If you insist.’ He grinned his sallow grin again and unlocked a cabinet from beneath the counter. He removed a draw of vials and placed it in front of me. The liquid in these ones were inky black instead of amber, and each squid looked mottled and emaciated. ‘Let me see, let me see. Oh, yes, this one comes from a gent who lost both hands in a traffic collision, he was a musician, classical viola, very tragic.’

‘Spare me the backstory.’ I reached out and grabbed the vial closest to me. ‘Here, how much is this one?’

‘That one. Hmm, I don’t know. Might be a bit strong for you. Torture, no less.’

‘How much?’

‘Thirty five.’

‘Perfect,’ I said, placing the money on the counter. ‘Now, how do I find my day?’

+

The thick soles of my boots pounded heavily on the dark grey of the tarmac as I strode towards the shell of the light airplane. From the look of it, it had clearly been sitting forgotten in this corner of the airport for years. The nose was sheared off, and both wings were missing, leaving only the cabin, which was etched over in scribbles of moss and graffiti. It seemed an unlikely hiding place for my hidden day, but this location was all the bloated man had told me.

I peered in through the open orifice of the cabin doorway, the door long since lost. It was dark inside, the morning sun not yet having risen above the tree line.

‘Hello,’ I called out. ‘Is there anyone in here?’

A scrambling sound came from the left side of the craft. Then silence.

‘Hello,’ I called again as I stepped inside. Still nothing. I moved slowly down the thin aisle between the old faded orange seats towards the sound. Midway down, across three seats, lay a blanket and pillow, their owner no longer with them. Another sound, a foot hitting metal, back the way I’d come.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ I said as I turned. ‘I just need to ask some questions.’

A hand whipped out from beneath the seats and grabbed my ankle. With a quick pull I fell face first towards the ground. A figure scrambled quickly over the seats and jumped upon my back with a wild shriek.

I fought to throw them off but they held on tight, grabbing at my hair and coat. I growled, got my arms underneath myself, and pushed up, throwing the figure back. I spun, ready to attack and saw a teenager, a girl, in tattered clothes crawl quickly behind a chair.

I took a breath, thought of Alona, and pictured the scene from above. An abandoned aircraft, small in the scope of the entire airport, two people inside, smaller still.

‘I won’t hurt you,’ I said again.

Her head stuck out from behind the chair to peer up at me fearfully. Two horns, small, like that of a goat, stuck up from the sides of her forehead. A prairie. The flabby bastard could have told me so I’d come prepared, I thought, but of course he hadn’t, no doubt repercussion for my low cost purchase.

‘I’m looking for something.’ I told her. ‘Something that’s hidden. A day.’

Her expression gained curiosity.

‘Hidden,’ she said. ‘Meesha, find?’

‘Yes,’ I said, smiling. ‘That would be wonderful.’

She stuck out a hand, wanting payment. Prairie folk usually demand sugar or salt, but being unprepared I didn’t have either of those on me. I searched through my coat pockets finding only coins and the small vial. I considered the coins, then held the vial out to her.

Her fingers gently plucked it from my own and she studied the small container carefully, looking intently at the dark liquid and the small squid hidden within. With a sharp nod she stood, pocketing the vial somewhere within the folds of her torn clothing.

She studied me next, her purple eyes looking deep into my own, then, piece by piece, she mapped the rest of my face. Her arms arced and soft fingers curled around my head. They held for only a second, her eyes flickering closed then open again.

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘It is found.’

‘Where?’

‘Bones.’

‘Bones?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I see bones. Bones and stone.’

‘A cemetery?’

Her head and shoulders moved; half shrugging, half nodding.

There was only one it could be. Only problem was it was a good eight hour drive from there, and I was still running on three days without sleep.

I looked across at the prairie girl, who had gone back to studying the vial. ‘You couldn’t take me there, could you? I’ll pay you.’

She thought about it, then nodded. ‘No payment, this enough,’ she said, shaking the vial so that the squids tiny legs waved.

Her hand reached out, found my own, and in a second we were gone.

+

I stumbled out of the tree’s trunk, and fell as my foot found one of it’s many roots. I swore loudly, picked myself up, and turned to see Meesha step forward, bark closing behind her.

‘Careful,’ she said, belatedly, then smiled, making it clear she was mocking me.

‘Yeah, thanks,’ I said, a half smile finding its way onto my own face.

I looked around at the forest of tombstones, then back to Meesha.

‘You wouldn’t know where-’

She pointed to a grave a short way ahead of us.

‘Thanks.’

I approached the grave and heard Meesha’s soft footsteps behind me. I knew the name my eyes — which now ached with tiredness — would find on it.

A wave of dizziness swept over me and I felt as if I could have laid down onto the soft grass beside the grave and slept for an age. Instead, I shook my head and knelt down into the dirt in front of it.

Alona Jablonski, was newly carved in gilded letters onto the solid surface of the stone.

I looked up at Meesha, who waved her hand down towards the grave, indicating what I wanted would be found below the soil. I nodded, and began to dig at the fresh dirt with my hands.

It took a little over an hour to clear away enough dirt to open the casket. Meesha refused to help. She instead sat crossed legged beside the grave, staring at her vial. The lid opened easily, it hadn’t been buried long, and there was Alona, only slightly less beautiful dead than she had been alive.

‘Hello, love,’ I said. Emotion welled at the back of my throat and I let it come, tears sliding easily down my cheeks. ‘I believe you have something for me?’

Her hands were crossed over her chest, the tip of a vial present from beneath them. I carefully pried them apart and took it from her.

Its liquid was amber.

I pulled out the stopper and raised the glass to my lips, swallowing its contents. As I felt the squid slide down my throat, my hidden day was revealed to me.

+

The conclusion to this story can be found here.

+

Thanks for reading

Damian

September 8, 2017

P1060115

For all the mixed opinions about John Mayer, and his tabloid worthy antics, I think the guy’s capable of some great music. Stop This Train, is the best example of that. It details in heart wrenching relatability the feeling that life is moving too fast, and the untenable desire to slow it down. It’s also today’s blog song.

++++

Current chain of writing days: 40

++++

A couple of weekends ago the Lady Holly and I had what we call a ‘Hdoliday.’ Apart from combining the first letter of our names with the word holiday, it’s also a weekend we put aside to purposely be antisocial. Well, we still want to be social, but just with each other.

With Holly’s work as a highschool teacher frequently leaking out into her weekends and after hours, and with me using outer work hours for writing, podcasting, and various other networking activities, not to mention actually hanging out with all the great people in our lives, it can sometimes feel like we don’t have a lot of time to just have a lazy day at home. A day where we’re free to do anything, or nothing. Our hdolidays are the answer to that.

We’ve had three so far; two involving a lot of lounging around like greek rulers, and, the most recent one, where we not only left the house, but did so multiple times. The cause for this was that I had been given a very generous red balloon voucher from a group of my friends for my thirtieth birthday in November last year. Not being much of an adrenaline junkie (the complete opposite) I quickly ruled out a lot of red balloon’s more standard options. Luckily, there are plenty of other offers on the site, including weekends away. Originally, that is what we had planned on doing, but none of the trips really fit what we were looking for, and so we decided to change tactics. We would instead treat ourselves to a number of activities within our own city, Melbourne, and have a weekend away by not going anywhere.

We brought three vouchers; two food based, and one an activity. The food ones were a buffet breakfast at the Hotel Windsor (Saturday Morning), and teppanyaki at a restaurant on Southbank (Sunday lunch). Both were great in different ways but it was the activity that stood out from the weekend. An hour in a flotation tank.

I’ll be honest, most of my interest in this activity came from a Simpsons episode, where Homer and Lisa each give it a go, to varying results. I had also heard that you could sometimes have hallucinations while in the tank, and read a story about someone who got a pretty serious ear infection after going to a dodgy clinic in LA, and that was my sum knowledge about what to expect. Going in, I was mostly excited by my ignorance. I didn’t know what was going to happen but I was keen to find out. I figured it would be weird, maybe boring, and at the very least no different from a really long bath.

For those who don’t know, a floatation tank is basically a large capsule filled with incredibly salty water in order to ensure you float. Its main goal, and the thing that makes it so trippy, is sensory deprivation; trying to cut you off from your senses as much as possible. The walls are thick to cut out sound, the lights get turned off, and the floatation means that mostly all you can feel is a slight awareness of water. However, the temperature of the water, is kept the same as the room, which is aimed to be the same as the average body temperature, so even then it can be hard to know where the water, your body, and the surrounding air start and finish. By cutting yourself off from all your senses you’re basically left to do, as Holly called it, forced meditation. This is why some people hallucinate. They’re left with so little input that their minds go into vivid daydreaming, that they’re so focused on that it seems real.

I didn’t hallucinate, and I didn’t get an ear infection. What I did do was relax.

I was left alone in the room, showered, and then quickly stepped into the tank, closing the lid behind me. At first I was giddy. The high salt content means that you have no option but to float, and the extreme buoyancy, not to mention the fact that I was closed up in a big white pod half filled with water, was weird and amusing. Lights were on and music was playing, both of which would slowly fade away after ten minutes.

I closed my eyes and lay back.

First there were the stray thoughts, the normal ones your brain thinks on when you first lie down, mostly comprised of analysing what I was experiencing, or more correctly, wasn’t. I swayed my body and felt it move with barely any resistance. I thought about how I could be in space right then, with nothing but infinity stretching out around me in every direction. Then the music drifted away and I dared to open my eyes. There was no difference. With the lights now off I was in the pitchest of blacks, the kind where I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. I giggled, the idea of me lost in space seeming even more real.

My mind turned from immediate events, to past ones and future concerns, and then to somewhere beyond them. I wouldn’t say I ever stopped thinking completely, there was no clearing of the mind, but the thoughts were small and quiet, disappearing as soon as they arrived, and leaving no trace or memory of what they were even about.

Then I scratched my forehead and three salty drops of water fell into my eyes. I tried really hard not to rub at them, knowing it would make it worse, then tried to ignore them, then when that didn’t work finally sat up and turned on the light. Inside each pod is a button to turn on a low light, and a squirt bottle of clean water for just this occasion. I washed my eyes out, turned the lights off, and lay back down.

It seemed only a handful of minutes later that I became aware of the music slowly starting again. Somehow an hour had passed. I sat up within the tank and listened to the music, still not thinking much of anything. My body was relaxed, and comfortable, and my mind was too. Eventually, I opened the tank and stepped out. I showered again to get all the salt off and made my way back out into a world that for a short while had seemed not to exist.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the experience for the most part. It felt like I had had a big long sleep, and as meditation goes is easily the most I’ve ever been able to achieve. There was also something about being so alone, even for a short while. That for that short time all I really had to worry about was myself, and even then that mostly comprised of keeping salt out of my eyes.

Holly had a similar experience, and a similar dilation of time, although that was mostly due to the fact that she fell asleep.

I love that woman.

Talk soon

Damian

The King of Rabbits

1.Louis-Bonarparte

I want to tell you a story. It’s a true story. Not mine, admittedly, but true nonetheless.

It’s about a man, a man who wanted to be king, who would be king, king of a land not originally his own. This man, he wanted to be a good king. Wanted to make a good impression, and earn respect and trust from his new citizens. Wanted his name, Louis – The King of Holland, to be known and spoken of for years to come.

But there was a problem, there’s always a problem for guys like this, and for this guy the problem was his brother. You see Louis’ brother was a real big deal, a king in his own right, and a conqueror. A man whose name was already known across the globe, and feared. There’s even a good chance you already know of him.

His name was Napoleon.

Told you.

As you might have expected, it was Napoleon who acquired for Louis his new stewardship. You see, Napoleon felt that the Batavian Republic, as it was then known, was too independent for his liking, and, being the man that he was, decided to replace it with the Kingdom of Holland, and place ol’ Louis on the throne, having him serve as nothing more than a French prefect of Holland. Big brothers, what are you going to do?

However, as you and I both know, Louis had other plans. Small plans, admittedly, and well meaning, but plans Napoleon would be none to pleased about. Plans, in fact, that would lead to conflict and strife between the brothers, with Napoleon eventually forcing Louis’ to abdicate the very throne he’d given him.

All comes later, though. The story I’m telling you today comes right at the start of Louis’ rule.

While big brother was off paving the way for his eventual monarchy, Louis was learning all he could about his his soon to be adopted country, making every effort so that when the time came he would be sure to impress his new citizenry. He decided that he needed to show the Dutch people that he was one of them, and that even though he was of French descent he would always but the needs of the Dutch first. Before he could do all that though, he needed to learn their language.

Of course, it couldn’t be just he who learned Dutch. His wife, Hortense, would need to learn the language to if she were to be their queen. His court, chosen by Napoleon and made entirely of frenchmen, must also learn Dutch.

Lessons began immediately, and equally as immediately, problems began to sprout. The first came from Hortense. You see, she already didn’t think much of her husband, their marriage being more one of necessity, and while she had gone along with her husband’s ideas thus far, he soon found her breaking point when one night in the quiet of their bedchamber Louis told her that once they were ensconced on the throne he planned for them to renounce their French citizenships. Hortense flat out refused. Refused to renounce, refused to learn Dutch, refuse to even stay in Holland for a minute more than she had to.

Louis, however, despite being understandably crestfallen, pushed on. Which is where the next problem comes in, because Louis was having trouble with the language. For all his good intentions they unfortunately didn’t make him one lick smarter. Certain people, you see, spoke of Louis as having a touch of the “lunacy”, which is probably all you need to know about the scope of his mental faculties. He was a good man, and for the most part capable, just flighty and restless. The kind of man who would later change his capital city a dozen times over, sometimes in a matter of weeks, and, well, a mind like that can have a spot of trouble with the necessary discipline of learning a new language.

Time was running thin and the date of his ascension was fast approaching, but Louis, goal firmly planted in his mind, continued with his studies as best he could. It was just the kind of guy he was.

Inevitably and eventually, as all days much, his day came; the day when he’d address his new people for the first time. A podium was erected, proclamations were made, and the Dutch people arrived to meet their new king.

Louis was nervous, as you’d expect. He had a speech, and it was a good one, short and simple, beginning with the most basic of statements, ‘Ik ben Louis, Koning van Holland.’ I am Louis, King of Holland. If he said nothing more than that, then all would be well.

He stepped up. Cleared his throat. Thought of his wife. Thought of his brother. Felt fear rise in his belly. Looked out at the gathered crowd, his people, and felt determination push that fear back down. He opened his mouth, and said;

‘Ik ben Louis, Konijn van ‘Olland.’

Close, but wrong, because what he said was, ‘I am Louis, Rabbit of Holland,’ and from that day to this that’s how he’s been remembered, as Louis, The King of Rabbits.

+

Thanks for reading

Damian